The Welshman leading landmine free Falkland celebration

The Welshman leading landmine free Falkland celebration

A Welsh doctor will help lead celebrations as the Falklands are declared landmine free almost 40 years after war on the islands.Dr Barry Elsby said it would be a “momentous” to see Yorke Beach, near the capital Stanley, “reclaimed”.

It was heavily mined in the 1982 conflict by Argentine forces.

Dr Elsby, who is now a member of the Falkland Islands government, said it would be a first walk on the beach for many.

“I have friends who were born after the 1982 conflict, and have never been able to stroll along this beach,” he said.

The doctor swapped his hometown of Garden City, near Shotton, in Flintshire, for a life on the other side of the world when he took up a two-year post in 1990 with his wife Bernadette, also a medic.

They fell in love with island life, and 30 years on are still there.

“We are looking forward to reclaiming the beach by blowing up the last mines,” said Dr Elsby.

“This will be another good bit of closure for people who were here when the invasion happened and lived through the horrors of that time.

“All the mine signposts were a constant reminder of what happened but now they are all away, it’s another return to normality.

“It is a very welcome development and I don’t think anyone ever thought this would come about.”

An estimated 13,000 land mines were buried across the islands during the 10-week conflict.

A programme to remove them has been under way since 2009 as part of the UK’s obligations under the international anti-personnel mine ban convention.

“We never thought the islands would be completely mine free, so this is a momentous change,” added Dr Elsby.

“More importantly, no-one has been seriously harmed doing this. It speaks volumes for the teams that have been responsible for doing this over so many years.”

It also speaks volumes for the islanders, according to the doctor, and gives an insight into why he was happy to swap Deeside for somewhere like the Falklands.

“We had clear plans when we came here in 1990 – we had no intention of staying,” he said.

“But we were captivated, not just by the beauty, but also by the way of life and friendliness of the community.”

The son of a crane driver in the Shotton steelworks, his links with Wales remain strong despite being almost 8,000 miles (12,735km) away.

“For the last eight years, I have been laying wreaths at Fitzroy where so many Welsh Guards died and were injured, so I think those links will remain forever,” he said.

The UK minister with responsibility for the Falklands, Wendy Morton said the final de-mining exercise on Saturday was a “significant achievement” for the Falklands and its population.

“We must pay tribute to the brilliant team of deminers who made a long-term commitment to this programme and put their lives at risk day-to-day, removing and destroying landmines to make the Falklands safe,” she said.

“Our commitment to ridding the world of fatal landmines does not end with our territories being mine free.

“A further £36m of UK funding will allow demining projects across the world to continue, protecting innocent civilian lives.”

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